Have you ever dropped a piece of food and wondered if it’s safe to eat? Now you can find out.
Researchers have tested the 5 second rule and provided scientific information about contamination levels of dropped food and more importantly, whether said food is safe to eat. According to the report, two foods – pasta and dried fruit shouldn’t be eaten once they hit the floor – even if they’re picked up within 3 seconds. Other foods such as sliced ham and cookies are safe to eat. Toast is okay if it’s brushed off first.
I believe this report is too simplistic. In combination with the 5 second rule, following are five additional factors that determine dropped food’s suitability for eating.
1. The presence of witnesses
Many people operate under the premise that if someone sees them eat contaminated food, the food should probably not be eaten. If dropped food can be eaten undetected, there are generally no ill effects – even if contact exceeded 5 seconds. You know the saying: If food drops in the forest and there’s no one to see me eat it, is it still contaminated?
2. Your desire level
If you dropped the last brownie and really, really wanted that brownie, bacteria doesn’t stick as easily so it’s usually safe to eat even if the 5 second rule is exceeded. This is especially true if there are no witnesses. This is a metaphysical property in which your emotions repel bacteria.
3. The contaminated surface
Food dropped on private surfaces is generally safer than food dropped in public. For example, your freshly cleaned kitchen floor can hold edible food longer than the dirty floor in a movie theater. Interestingly, this is one factor that’s especially susceptible to numbers 1 & 2 above. If the food is highly desirable and there are no witnesses, food may be eaten even if the surface is notably contaminated. Must be that metaphysical thing at play again.
4. The condition of the food
Regardless of numbers 1-3 above, there’s a universal tendency to abandon food that’s been destroyed in a fall. Point of clarification, people tend to forgo the food. Animals are not so discriminating, they’ll eat anything that falls on the floor regardless of its condition. When this happens it’s a win-win because as they eat the food they also clean the floor (see #3 above).
5. Prior knowledge
Contamination rules apply only if you know the food was dropped. Seems like a no brainer, but here’s an example that I personally experienced. I was at a party and an elderly woman took a piece of candy from an open bowl. She thought it would be chewy. Discovering it was hard, she took it out of her mouth and placed it back in the dish. If I hadn’t seen her put the candy back, I might have eaten it. However, I witnessed the transgression and as a result didn’t eat any candy at the party or much else after that. Prior knowledge – an important factor.
Think about your own behavior surrounding the 5 second rule. If you come up with other considerations, please share!
May the farce be with you!